From "Sleeping Beauty" to "Toy Story 4," animated Disney movies are almost always fantastical masterpieces. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of "The Princess and the Frog" on Nov. 25, 2019, Wonderwall.com took on the Herculean task of rounding up the best animated Disney movies of all time. Keep reading to see which films — aside from hardworking waitress-turned-frog-turned-princess Tiana's story — made our list!
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"Tarzan" had it all — a fantastic score, groundbreaking animation and an entertaining screenplay. The 1999 movie based on the story of "Tarzan of the Apes" was the first to use a new technical breakthrough called Deep Canvassing, which enhanced the lush jungle and fast vine-swinging seen throughout the film. The movie received positive reviews and grossing more than $448 million worldwide. The Phil Collins-composed soundtrack featured the hit song "You'll Be in My Heart," which won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best original song.
Next up? The highest grossing animated movie of all time, "Frozen." The 2013 film inspired by the fairy tale "The Snow Queen" was a surprise blockbuster hit, earning rave reviews for its themes, vocal performances and empowering, female-focused screenplay. It also grossed $1.2 billion worldwide! The picture went on to win the Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and Critics' Choice Award for best animated feature. "Frozen" also gave us what might be the catchiest Disney song ever, "Let It Go," which won the Oscar for best original song.
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The film that started the Disney Renaissance period! "The Little Mermaid" includes beautiful storytelling, a passionate heroine and a fabulous six-times-platinum soundtrack ("Part of Your World" and "Under the Sea," anyone?). The 1989 film was an instant critical and commercial success, earning $211 million at the box office and winning two Academy Awards. Who didn't love Ariel marveling over household objects and belting her heart out in her cavern of wonders? And don't forget that it features one of the best villains of all time: the fabulously evil Ursula! "The Little Mermaid" breathed life into Disney animation films after a number of failures in the '70s and early '80s and for that, we'll always be grateful.
"Lilo & Stitch" is the Hawaiian adventure we all need. The 2002 movie about a young Hawaiian girl, her older sister and a space alien somehow works perfectly. The Disney flick received strong reviews from critics and fans who loved its edgier storyline, sassy characters and focus on untraditional families. "Lilo & Stitch" went on to gross more than $273 million worldwide and received an Oscar nomination for best animated feature. In fact, the film was so successful that it spawned two direct-to-video sequels, a TV sequel, a television series and an anime series!
"Finding Nemo" was Disney's first blockbuster animated film of the new millennium. The 2003 movie follows clown fish Marlin as he travels across the ocean to find his son, Nemo, after the little fish is captured by divers. The vibrant and fun family film was beloved thanks to its talented voice cast sweet storyline. "Finding Nemo" became the highest grossing animated film of all time with $940 million in box office receipts (a record that was broken by "Frozen" a few years later) and is currently the bestselling DVD of all time. The movie, which features the voices of Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, won the Oscar for best animated movie.
Who knew a love story about robots (and the environment) could be so heartwarming? 2008's "WALL-E" surprisingly delivered both. The Disney film is about an older trash compactor robot left to clean a deserted and polluted Earth who falls in love with a newer probe robot and travels the galaxy for love. The super-cute film scored great reviews from critics and audiences for its thought-provoking commentary on consumerism, corporatism and environmental waste as well as its unique storyline and striking visuals. "WALL-E" was a huge box-office success that grossed $533 million worldwide and won the Oscar and the Golden Globe for best animated movie.
"Sleeping Beauty" is a Disney classic that still dazzles audiences nearly 60 years after its release. The 1959 film based on the old fairy tale didn't make a big splash when it first hit theaters as it drew mixed reviews and underperformed at the box office. Today, however, critics and fans appreciate the movie for its charming heroine and powerful music score. "Sleeping Beauty" also established one of the most popular, deliciously evil villains of all time, Maleficent. The evil fairy was so wicked that she ended up being the face of the Disney Villains franchise and the subject of her own live-action film series. Fun fact: "Sleeping Beauty" made history as the first animated film to be photographed using the Super Technirama 70 widescreen process.
The movie about everyone's favorite "street rat" is next on our list. "Aladdin" represents the very best of Disney animation: the visuals are stunning, the songs are spectacular and the voice acting is phenomenal. The 1992 flick became the first animated feature to reach the half-a-billion-dollars mark at the box office and was briefly the highest grossing animated film of all time with $504 million in box office receipts worldwide. "Aladdin," which starred the late, great Robin Williams as Genie, is also the first and only Disney feature to earn a Grammy Award for song of the year (for the theme song "A Whole New World"). We lived for all of it.
Who doesn't love Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera? The 1967 film "The Jungle Book," inspired by the book of the same name, became Disney's second-highest grossing animated film when it earned $378 million worldwide. The movie also produced one of the most acclaimed soundtracks of all time featuring hit songs like "Bare Necessities" and "I Wan'na Be Like You." A true classic!
"Hercules" is one of Disney's best animated films and that's the "gospel truth." The 1997 movie features an amazing soundtrack and an atypical Disney heroine we all love, Megara. Hercules' love interest in the film broke the mold by pushing away the damsel-in-distress narrative in favor of an independent, self-sufficient woman. In fact, Megara wasn't the only positive female character in the film. "Hercules" also featured the first positive portrayal of African American women in a Disney animated film with The Muses. The movie was well-received by critics and audiences, earning over $252 million worldwide and spawning a prequel and an animated series.
The 1998 movie "Mulan" has something that many earlier Disney animated films lacked — a powerful heroine. Fa Mulan fought her own battles and ended up saving the dynasty without the help of a "knight in shining armor." We lived for the girl power and we're not the only ones. "Mulan" received rave reviews from audiences and critics and earned Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. The movie was also a big box office success, grossing more than $304 million worldwide. Its successful soundtrack also featured Christina Aguilera's first big hit, "Reflection."
The 1991 classic film "Beauty and the Beast" has everything we love about Disney: flawless songs, beautiful animation, heartwarming love and a smart, witty heroine! The movie based on the French fairy tale "La Belle et la Bête" grossed $425 million worldwide on a $25 million budget and made history during award season. "Beauty and the Beast" took home the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy film, making it the first animated feature to ever win in that category. It also became the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. Though it didn't win, it was awarded Oscars for best original score and best original song. As if that wasn't enough, "Beauty and the Beast" was also Disney's first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical.
Next, we have one of the very first Disney animated films ever created — "Pinocchio"! The 1947 flick, based on the Italian children's novel "The Adventures of Pinocchio," was only the second animated movie to be produced by Disney. More than 70 years later, the movie represents the very best of animated films and children's storytelling. "Pinocchio" reminds audiences that dreams are achievable and that everyone should always "wish upon a star." "Pinocchio" won two competitive Academy Awards — the first animated film to do so. In 1994, "Pinocchio" was added to the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."
"Up" is a Disney animated movie that had us on the verge of tears in the theater. The heartwarming and sentimental yet exciting 2009 film about a man who travels to South America after tying balloons to his house following the devastating death of his wife received dazzling reviews from critics and audiences. The movie was also a huge hit at the box office, grossing over $735 million worldwide! "Up" was nominated for five Academy Awards including best picture, making it the second animated film in history to find itself up for the prize ("Beauty and the Beast" was the first). The flick took home Oscars for best animated feature and best original score.
"Toy Story" is a fantastic film about friendship, adventure and love all told through the eyes of toys. The 1995 flick was the first Disney animated movie to be produced by Pixar, a long-standing relationship that remains to this day. Critics were enamored of the movie, which features the voices of Tom Hanks as Sheriff Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, and praised the film's technical innovation, witty and sophisticated screenplay and strong performances. Audiences definitely agreed. "Toy Story" earned over $373 million at the box office and spawned three massively successful sequels as well as toys, video games, theme park attractions, spinoffs and merchandise. The movie that defined our childhoods was inducted into the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" in 2005.
We might be adults now, but our inner '90s kids were overcome with emotion watching "Toy Story 3." The long-awaited third "Toy Story" film was nearly flawless. Andy is all grown up and his toys are trying to find their place at a daycare center, leading to new experiences, new characters and a tear-inducing ending that had audiences nationwide in their feelings. The 2010 flick grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, becoming the third-highest grossing animated film of all time. The movie also earned five Academy Award nominations including a nod for best picture, becoming only the third animated film ever (after "Up" and "Beauty and the Beast") to receive such a nomination.
"The Lion King," the 1994 film about a young lion named Simba, rounds out our list of the best classic Disney animated movies. "The Lion King" has it all: heart-stopping thrills, tear-inducing heartbreak, loving family moments, sweet romance and everything in between. From Mufasa's tragic death to Simba and Nala's love story, we're here for all of it! The critically acclaimed movie grossed more than $968 million worldwide, a huge feat at that time, and became the second-highest grossing film of all time for a period. It also won two Academy Awards and a Golden Globe for best musical or comedy film. "The Lion King" was so successful that it spawned an amazingly good Broadway adaptation, two direct-to-video followups (the sequel "The Lion King II: Simba's Pride" and the prequel "The Lion King 1½"), two TV series, a 3D re-release in 2011 and a photorealistic computer-animated remake in 2019. In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."
"Pocahontas" has not only a thoughtful story and beautiful animation, but also an amazing soundtrack ("Colors of the Wind," anyone?). The 1995 movie received some criticism for its historical inaccuracy but is still considered by many to be one of the best animated flicks of all time. We also love that Disney Princess Pocahontas had not one but two potential suitors (you go, girl). The romantic epic earned more than $346 million at the box office and received two Oscars — one for best musical or comedy score for Alan Menken, and one for best original song for "Colors of the Wind."
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is the darkest Disney animated movie to date and also one of the best. The 1996 film explored a number of mature elements including infanticide, lust, damnation, genocide and sin (and still somehow maintained its G rating)! We love that the movie wasn't afraid to take on some of the more adult elements of its source material and critics and audiences agreed. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" earned two Academy Award nominations and more than $325 million at the box office.
The first Disney animated film to bring us to tears (but definitely not the last), "Bambi" is a classic that celebrates the power of friendship, family and love. The 1942 movie based on the book "Bambi, a Life in the Woods," earned three Academy Award nominations and more than $267 million on a $858K budget. Today, the classic flick is regarded as one of the best animated films of all time due to its exploration of grief and innocence, colorful visuals and charming story.